The New York Times is reporting that the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol assault is examining whether there is enough evidence to recommend that the Department of Justice pursue criminal cases against Donald Trump and others.
In a related development, the Times reported that for the first time the Jan. 6 committee is requesting testimony and documents from a House member. The committee sent a request for voluntary testimony to Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania about his involvement in efforts to overturn the election.
The Times wrote:
When the House formed a special committee this summer to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, its stated goal was to compile the most authoritative account of what occurred and make recommendations to ensure it never happens again.
But as investigators sifted through troves of documents, metadata and interview transcripts, they started considering whether the inquiry could yield something potentially more consequential: evidence of criminal conduct by President Donald J. Trump or others that they could send to the Justice Department urging an investigation.
That move — known as sending a criminal referral — has no legal weight, as Congress has little ability to tell the Justice Department what investigations it should undertake. But it could have a substantial political impact by increasing public pressure on Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who in his first year in office has largely sidestepped questions about what prosecutors are doing to examine the conduct of Mr. Trump and his aides as they promoted baseless allegations of voter fraud.
The House, based on recommendations by the Select Committee, has already sent contempt of Congress criminal referrals to the DOJ for Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and his former chief of staff Mark Meadows for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
But the Times, citing people briefed on the committee’s efforts, said that investigators are looking into whether a more serious range of crimes were committed..
The story said two crimes in particular were being looked at: “Whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen, despite knowing the claims were not true; and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes.”
It remains uncertain whether the committee has gathered enough evidence yet to support a criminal referral. The committee has already obtained more than 30,000 records and interviewed more than 300 witnesses, including about a dozen whom committee members say recently provided “key” testimony, the Times reported.
Recently, the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), hinted that the committee was considering the issue of criminality when she read a portion of the criminal code that could apply to Trump at a hearing considering a contempt of Congress referral against Meadows.
Cheney said: “Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?”
A D.C. district judge recently allowed federal prosecutors to use the charge of obstruction against an official Congressional proceeding in cases against rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Cheney also said that the committee could subpoena Trump, who would face criminal penalties if he lies in his testimony.
The Times reported that the committee was “also examining whether there is enough evidence to make a wire fraud referral over how Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party raised $255.4 million from donors as he and his allies fund-raised off the false claim that the election had been stolen.”
The committee plans to hold weeks of televised public hearings in early 2022 describing in detail what lead to the Capitol riot. So no referrals are likely to happen before those hearings end and the committee issues its report.
On Monday, the committee announced that it had asked Rep. Perry to meet with its investigators and voluntarily turn over his communications in the days leading up to the 1/6 Capitol riot.
In his letter to Perry, Thompson wrote: “The select committee has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its members. At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully all of these facts and circumstances.”
Perry was involved in efforts to block certification of the election results in Pennsylvania and also introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, the senior DOJ official who was most supportive of the “Stop the Steal’ movement.
Thompson wrote to Perry:
“We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting attorney general. When Mr. Clark decided to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, he understood that we planned to pose questions addressing his interactions with you, among a host of other topics.”